It’s a question we are asked regularly. In fact it’s a question we asked ourselves for years. What is the best paper for printing greeting cards on?
The truth is that there are lots of great paper types and and each have their own benefits and drawbacks. A card stock that is great for a bright, abstract design might not be good for a delicate, subtle watercolour reproduction.
Paper is probably the single most important consideration when printing. When a good printer is used, with high quality ink, the card choice will bring out the best (or worst) in the design.
What are the differences?
There are many things that influence the suitability of the paper. What it is made from, the thickness, any coatings, the finish etc all mean that you will get a different outcome from your print.
Greeting cards in particular are difficult to get right. The reason for this is that greeting cards are handled, folding, unfolded, written on, stuffed into an envelope, stood up on an edge, put into a drawer and taken out again years down the line to enjoy again. Choosing the right card stock will ensure that you will surprise someone with a card that looks great and could last a lifetime.
What is made from?
Ask any child what paper is made from and they’ll tell you it’s made from trees. Where it is true that many papers are made from wood, or at least contain wood, there are many other materials that are used to make card stock.
There are papers made from cloth, plastic or synthetic fibres. There are mixed material paper stocks. There are recycled papers, part recycled papers, rapid degrading papers for eco-friendly printing and sustainable card.
Some of these papers are used for specialised reasons and are not suitable for card printing so that answers the first question. Will any paper do? No!!
Cotton papers are great for cards in a lot of situations. They can take the ink well and produce clean and crisp lines with vibrant colours produced. Plastic card can produce perfect quality precise images, but aren’t usually great for folding or writing inside. Mixed material papers can give you the best of both worlds.
Greetings cards really do need to be reasonably thick to feel right. The thickness of the paper stock really makes or breaks the card.
Paper can vary massively in thickness. From thin paper that you would write a note on to card thick enough to fold into boxes for packaging, there are countless options.
We generally refer to card by weight. In the UK we use GSM as our unit of measure. GSM stands for grams per square metre. That means paper that is cut into a square 1 metre x 1 metre would weigh an amount of grams. Usually the thicker the paper, the heavier the it would be.
The paper that your bills are sent in the post to you would typically be 80gsm so they would weigh 80grams per square metre of paper. Card stock usually start at around 240gsm.
The thickness of the card can vary depending on what it is made from too. Paper card stock at 300gsm is much thicker that plastic card stock at 300gsm. This is because the density of the plastic card stock is much higher. The reason this is important is because to get the feel of a greeting card, you’ll need the card stock to be reasonably thick.
Using standard paper card stock or linen cards stocks, 280gsm or heavier would usually be great. For plastic cards stock you might need 400gsm or heavier for a similar feel.
Card can come with many different coating finishes, or no finish at all.
Uncoated papers are great at absorbing ink. They are also great to write on, for the same reason. However, the downside of this is that the image may not be as crisp or vibrant. Uncoated papers are usually used for letter writing or advertising materials such as flyers and newsletters. Uncoated linen and paper card stock may be more textured.
Coated card stocks can produce much more crisp amid clear images and text. The coating can range from matte to high gloss. Card stock can be coated on one side or both sides. The coating can make it difficult to write on so card with single side coating is ideal for card making.
High gloss coatings are great for images, but can absorb less ink decreasing the longevity of the greeting card. Matte finishes can last longer but don’t offer the traditional sheen that gloss cards have. Soft matte finishes can give a real feel of luxury when printed using professional quality printers,
There are also waterproof coatings and UV protective coatings available.
Going back to where we started...there are lots of paper types and each have their own benefits and drawbacks.
At PeachCards.com we have tried and tested many variations of card over the years.
We have found that for most graphically designed cards, matte coated or silk finished card stock is great. We prefer to use card over 350gsm for a luxury feel. Home printers will often not accept paper above 240-260gsm.
Printing great looking and great feeling cards is certainly possible at home. Designing the perfect card takes time and patience, but when all of that hard work is done.....ensure that you have the right paper stock to print you greeting card on to.